Well shit me – hasn’t time suddenly started flying by!
With work and renovating a shed into a Tiki-bar for my mom’s 60th birthday proving ample distractions, I’ve only been able to mull over the most superficial of plans, a route that I can roughly follow when I hit the Indian ground in a little over 10 days time.
There’s no itinerary – not really even a concept of time. It’ll take as long as it takes, and I’ve got as long as it takes, having been granted a full years sabbatical from work. What’s important is there’s plenty of opportunity to take the mad roads and the bad roads… and hopefully just a little trouble catches up with me.
Here’s my first stab at a route – descriptions below.
July 11th: Land in New Delhi.
Take two weeks to adapt to heat, buy a bike and extra suppliers and do some local touring about. Favorite bike options at the moment are either an Enfield Bullet (the Indian motorcycle scene all groan in unison) or a KTM Duke 200. Everything practical screams the latter, with a fellow biker describing that he wouldn’t choose an Enfield because he’s – I quote “a huge fan of freedom, reliability, economy and success”. And this is much the same message I’ve heard from everyone who’s got any common sense.
Frustratingly then, my bike choices never seem to come from a place of common sense – more the outright seeking of adversity, challenge and borderline sexual levels of physical attraction. Never say never, but you can probably guess which way I’m leaning right now. Hell, I’m there a while. I could always get one then the other. Both might be greedy.
July 24-30th: Leave New Delhi and head North, swinging through Punjab. Options from there are to head to Shimla, then either directly approach Manali from the South or along the 505 through the Spiti Valley and descend to Manali from the North. I’d hole up in Manali for a few days, and check out a few surrounding villages, like Kasol (not only for the hashish, jees).
Time starts loosing meaning: Depart Manali and head further north, following the road through Keylong and Pang – reaching Leh eventually. Here I’ll hole up for a while, heading out with my tripod (which almost everyone has regarded as a useless piece of kit!) to practice my scenic photography. There are a few notable high passes in the surrounding mountains, I’ll take a view when I’m there if that’s something I’m interested in doing. Otherwise, I’ll probably venture Westwards towards Srinagar and Jammu & Kashmir. The UK foreign office (and therefore every travel insurance company) seems to think that’s a bad idea. Me and my pirate flag intend to find out why.
There’s apparently another beautiful (psychopath) mountain route stretching from Keylong, joining highway 44 either through or skirting Jammu, before following the 154 all the way to its, fairly close to Shimla again end (or heading back up to Manali). Boy, do those roads get me wet.
The days blend into one another: From this point, the research gets a bit thin. I’d envisaged having plenty of time to plan ahead while en-route. The rough outline would be to thread the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, making entry to Nepal at its Western border, before traversing the length of the country to re-enter India at it’s Eastern border. From there, if there’s still any clutch left in the bike, the Zuluk loops will gently beckon and I’ll be summoned into the mountains once more.
Because Bhutan has this overprotective $250 minimum daily spend and requires pre-booked guided trips, I’ll probably skirt the country for now – instead choosing to tour around Meghalaya, Assam and Nagaland. The notion of taking a bike I haven’t officially got my name registered for into Myanmar also seems a bit far fetched, considering the difficulty and special permits cyclists and foot passengers have endured to make this border crossing. In all likelihood I’ll head back West, through Bangaladesh and reunite with coastal towns and frolics.
I haven’t noticed the batteries in my watch died weeks ago: Roughly speaking, I plan to follow the Indian coast, all the way back round to Rajasthan where I’ll finish big in the (hopefully quite dry by now) Great Rann of Kutch salt flats. Limping sadly back into New Delhi, I’ll sell my old friend and jump on a plane to South East Asia…
You’ll appreciate it’s only the skin of a plan, but I’m still woeful of neglecting the whole of India’s interior lands. I would gladly take any recommendations for special trips inland while following the coast road, if you’ve been to this region before!
I also haven’t fully decided on a arrival destination for my South East Asia stint. Provisionally I’d say Thailand, as purchasing a bike seems to be simple enough and so is access to bordering countries. That said, other sources suggest Vietnam is easiest for border relations. I’m on a one way ticket, so everywhere is an option. Got any thoughts?
Featured image credit: @ Charanpreet Singh